Retail pharmacy can 'strut its stuff' as ACA, insurance exchange information source

Chains have positioned selves as resources for confused public

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is taking to the airwaves to emphasize the role its members play in disseminating information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the health insurance exchanges, which officially opened on Tuesday. NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson appeared on Bloomberg TV's "Surveillance" Tuesday morning to talk about what pharmacies are doing for healthcare delivery.

The NACDS and National Community Pharmacists Association have long touted retail pharmacies as the most accessible centers for health and wellness, and pharmacists as the face of neighborhood health care. That role is especially important given widespread ignorance among the public about the Affordable Care Act and the exchanges.

On Sept. 30, the day before the insurance exchanges opened, kiosk maker SoloHealth announced the results of a 13,600-person survey showing that 64% of consumers have "no" or "a little bit" of knowledge about them. On Tuesday, SoloHealth announced a partnership with eHealthInsurance to help expand consumer awareness and enrollment in individual, family and Medicare health insurance plans.

And as Anderson told Bloomberg, pharmacy retailers large and small are doing their part as well and have busied themselves all week with outreach programs.

On Tuesday, Meijer said it would work with Michigan-based health plan Priority Health to raise awareness about exchanges, as well as distributing informational brochures at its 203 stores in the Midwest and Kentucky.

On Wednesday, Miami-based Navarro Discount Pharmacy said it would make representatives from healthcare companies available at its stores to explain insurance options, as well as sponsoring Univision's "Salud es Vida" event at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Expo.

On Thursday, Walgreens announced a partnership with GoHealth, directing customers to the GoHealth Marketplace, a resource where they can shop and compare health insurance plans, as well as providing brochures and other materials at stores.

On Friday, CVS/pharmacy announced a partnership with Humana, whereby representatives from the health insurer will be available at CVS' Project Health events starting this month. Humana also will sponsor in-store events at CVS locations.

And last month, at an event in Hoboken, N.J., that included secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius and Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, Rite Aid chairman and CEO John Standley announced a plan to place insurance agents at stores around the country to educate customers about Obamacare and help them enroll in plans.

It's no secret that retail pharmacy has a growing role in the healthcare system, as evidenced by California Gov. Jerry Brown's signing this week of a law that expands pharmacists' scope of practice in the state, as well as Anderson's touting of pharmacy services like immunizations and medication therapy management in his Bloomberg TV appearance.

Much as it did through immunizations during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, retail pharmacy now has another chance to strut its stuff and show the country just how useful a resource it can be.


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